Von Pea takes ‘em to school on his solo offering, Pea’s Gotta Have It.
Conceptually set during senior year of high school, the Tanya Morgan emcee ably sticks to the script, covering nearly every experience from the first day to Graduation.
Brick Beats‘ soulfully brisk backdrop on “The Yorker” feels as fresh as back-to-school clothes and Aeon’s airy production on “There U Were” (featuring Uzoy) perfectly supports Pea’s effortless flow and witty tale of the perils of kicking it to an anonymous “e-honey” over AIM. “The Good Life” captures the capriciousness of in-class day dreaming then transitions smoothly into “Open School” where day dreaming goes wrong, resulting in the Brooklyn lyricists removal from class. Danny! assists with a solid verse detailing his skills in altering report cards with a Sharpie.
The James Cooley produced “Ahead Of The Class” is a light hearted cypher rhyme loaded with more Von Pea wittiness. “If Rap don’t work I’ll fall back and be a doctor / So damn cool yall and I ain’t even popular.” “New Pair” (featuring Josie Stingray and Rhapsody) ingeniously samples Will Smith’s “Summertime” for it’s hook (“Yeah, I got on sneaks but I need a new pair”), fulfilling the obligatory high school sneaker obsession. While Rap songs about shoes are as stale as an encyclopedia home set, “Get Violated’s” progressive use of Andre 3000’s “The Love Below Intro” mixed with Pea’s clever account of getting hijacked for his Flights is a savvy recovery. Brizzo’s hand claps and hop step beat is exactly what is expected from “Pep Rally.” And album closer, “Outro”, pimp slaps life’s cold reality straight into the teenage consciousness. “Child support due / Rent that’s past due / Mom’s, baby moms, plus the cops harass you.”
“Dreams” is undoubtedly Pea's Gotta Have It’s standout track. Jermiside, Illyas and Spec Boogie all deliver quality stanzas and Von’s slick personification of his 16 bar verse is both pristine in delivery and conceptually engaging.
“When I entered the room it was just Seven and Two / At different tables not a clue what to do / At different tables not a clue what to do / She got a twin named Three / He arrived later than Two with his boy Thirteen / The last person came because it was her Sweet 16....When I entered the room it was just Seven and Two / Now Eleven and One beefing / They’re wearing the same suit / And Twelve is instigating / Three grabbed Two / They ran with Thirteen / Eleven started to shoot / Fourteen had got hit, and she was Fifteen / God / This is why you can’t hang with my bars.”
While this is easily PGHI’s most creative offering, the fact that Five and Six are inexplicably excluded quickly detracts from it’s dopeness. Sure, the overarching concept isn’t new. Jay-Z already did “22 Two’s.” Papoose already did “Alphabetical Slaughter.” Similar approaches to the theme have already been done and Pea’s take is fresh regardless of the comparison. But considering how much focus is put into the high school motif throughout, the exclusion of Five and Six on arguably the album’s best verse is surprising and unfortunate. Von squanders an opportunity to ace the concept, and instead, falls just short of the Honor Roll -- an ironic metaphor for PGHI as a whole.
Pea’s Gotta Have It’s appeal lies the artist’s ability to tap into nostalgia. Although a deeper foray into the psychology of the high school senior would’ve been appreciated, he still connect’s with shrewd bars and witty narratives of timeless situations to which nearly anyone who has ever attended high school can relate. All six producers unite to lay a sonically consistent foundation and Pea sticks close enough to the script to maintain interest throughout. No track warrants an immediate reach for the skip button, but very similar to bandmate Donwill's Don Cusack In High Fidelity, PGHI is heavy on filler. “I Know We’re Right” feels unnecessary after “The Yorker.” “We Should Be Rocking” feels unnecessary before “There U Were.” And “Thanks For Your Children” and “Boombox” just feel unnecessary (even though Brizzo straight laced the former with one of the LP’s best beats). Add that to the 13 guest appearances who -- other than Jermiside, Illyas and Spec Boogie on “Dreams” and Danny! on “Open School” -- subtract more than they contribute along with an irritating intro (“Freestyle Live At Low Key’s”) that is lyrically unimpressive and suddenly a significant portion of the LP is unmemorable. It feels bloated, like an essay question that loses points for providing too much information. Nevertheless, Pea’s Gotta Have It is quality. It may not be miles ahead of it’s class, but it easily makes the grade.